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Miami Beach sergeant wins job back

Another fired Miami Beach cop has won his job back.

Sgt. Manuel Moraga was fired a little more than a year ago after an internal affairs investigation concluded that he ignored his radio and buried himself in paperwork during the July 4th weekend last year while an officer he was supposed to be supervising went AWOL, drank on duty and partied with a bachelorette.

After another officer who was also drinking with the bride-to-be crashed an ATV into two people on the beach, Moraga said he was sick and left two hours early, but still showed up to an off-duty shift a few hours later at Mayors jewelry store.

Moraga’s bosses called him negligent.

But on Monday an independent arbitrator ruled that the city’s policies were at fault and officials should reinstate Moraga as a sergeant and give him back pay for the time he lost when he was fired.

“Gross negligence is one matter,” arbitrator William C. Serda wrote in his findings. Being “overwhelmed by circumstances beyond your control, is another matter.”

Serda said there is nothing to prove that Moraga, who was allowed to leave early, wanted extra sleep or that he knew about the ATV crash when he left.

And while police brass and senior city officials said Moraga had shirked his duties, Serda believed Moraga was overburdened by his bosses with an “unrealistic” amount of paperwork duties. He was also undercut by a decision to leave him as the only sergeant for the middle and north districts after a second sergeant called in sick, Serda wrote.

During the night, as since-fired officers Derick Kuilan and Rolando Gutierrez made their way to a bachelorette party at The Clevelander hotel, Moraga had to deal with an armed robbery at Shake Shack, a lost child, a stolen car and an injured officer.

“Moraga is a victim of these circumstances - of which he is not responsible - and his shortcomings appear to have been unavoidable,” Serda wrote.

Police Chief Raymond Martinez said the city will not appeal the ruling. Moraga is expected back at the department soon, he said.

Moraga is the second officer this month to win his job back. Eliut Hazzi, fired last year for his role in an alleged gay-bashing incident, won his arbitration and was reinstated last week.

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